Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2015 just around the corner

Ho! Ho! Ho!

And a very Merry Christmas and a 
Happy New Year

Next post: January 6, 2015

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bear's December appearance a surprise

The fifth, and our last trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this year, brought a surprise on our last full day in the area which was Dec. 7.

We like to go up and visit the Chimney’s picnic area because of its beautiful surroundings and the fact that the west prong of the Little Pigeon River runs through it.

Well, even though we knew better that it would probably be closed, we headed up that way anyway.

And just before we got to the turnoff, we noticed a few people on the north side of the road looking down the hill.

“What do ya’ll see?” I asked.

“A bear!”

Meandering along the side of the hill was a black bear looking as though he was ready for the winter, seemingly having put on a few, if not quite a few, extra pounds.

I parked our van and grabbed my camera to see if I could get more than a black blob of a shot.

Not the perfect shot, but evidence anyway.  I moved along the edge of the road paralleling his movements farther below.

All of a sudden he disappeared. Another person and I debated what had happened.

Did he enter his winter den? We looked and looked.

And then our attention was directed to the other side of the road, the uphill side behind us.

He was over there. It seems the bear made its way through a culvert under the road.

We headed up the side of the hill with many tourists following to get their own pictures.

After awhile we decided he wasn’t going to get any closer and we headed on back down the mountain.

We haven’t been very lucky, even in the summer time, to see a bear, and this was truly a surprise.

Next post: December 23, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gatlinburg tries to break 'nose' record

Parade participants urge others to don red noses

The results aren’t in as yet, but Gatlnburg, TN was hoping to set a new world record during their Christmas parade on Dec. 5.

And the record to be broken — The largest number of people wearing a red Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer nose for five minutes.

The previous world record was set in Australia in 2011 when 16,092 donned the proboscis addition.

Before the parade began, locals were handing out what was expected to be 20,000 red noses to participants along the parade route.

Wifey and I arrived too late to get a “nose job” but we saw hundreds of others in the area sporting them.  

The parade went off as expected although rain, which didn't arrive until the next morning, was forecast to be in the area.

We were at the parade two years ago and on Friday night came to realize that one can’t expect the same thing at each event.

I was shooting a good number of pictures and held back, waiting for some participants that we had seen in the earlier parade. They didn’t show up. I was a little disappointed.

But none-the-less, the parade was entertaining for the thousands along the route who were out to kick off the Christmas season.

Next post: Dec. 16, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas -- Bellingrath's full of color

Extending telephoto lens while using slow exposure

Bellingrath Gardens, in close proximity to Mobile AL, has gone Christmas colors for the holiday season.

Just this past Friday, the gates were open for their Magic Christmas in Lights presentation.

Nice weather, cool, but not cold temperatures, greeted visitors.

Although the first day, the crowd was not overwhelming and visitors could easily enjoy all the festivities afforded.

For the opening, there was also a trio performing Christmas music. It was great.

Wifey and I, along with a son and daughter in law and four grandchildren, took advantage of the after-Thanksgiving colors.

Decorations of all sorts lighted up the night sky. A truly beautiful experience.

Enjoy the included pictures and make a visit if you live nearby.

Next post: December 9, 2014.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Weather allows another Big Easy jaunt

The weather finally turned a little cooler along the Gulf of Mexico during November so we decided to include New Orleans and French Market beignets in a trip that ended up in Baton Rouge.

New Orleans is usually rather hot and humid from May to October, so we steer clear unless it is necessary to go to the Big Easy.

I don’t know what it is about the routine of the type of visit we take numerous times during the year, but we do enjoy the time and the food.

The standard routine includes  a reststop at the Jax Brewery building, a visit to the Cafe du Monde and then a walk around Jackon Square.

There seems to always be something new to experience, new species of critters and then signs that profess to provide miracles.

This particular occasion was the first time we were entertained by a couple playing violins. Others gathered around to enjoy the sidewalk concert in Jackson Square. 

I can enjoy all types of music, and this particular couple were geared up toward a more high-brow style.

I just had to ask them if they knew any bluegrass tunes, but the woman didn’t know what I was talking about. Her ascent impressed me as her being from Europe. She sounded kind of French.

Happy Thanksgiving and good luck to those traveling along the Eastern Seaboard this week. It seems the weather is really going to be a bummer.

Our plans include heading out next week and possibly ending up in Gatlinburg for their Christmas parade.

We missed being there when it snowed in October and maybe we'll get a little dusting this time.

Next post: Dec. 2, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Riding that river can get pretty tough

 On our recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, we took a orchard side trip and ended up passing through McCaysville, GA.

Earlier in the day we went through Blue Ridge and visited the           Mercier Orchard.

We traveled a little further west and ended up at the Mountain View Orchard, a U-Pick-It business outside McCaysville. My wife wanted to see if they grew the Yates apple which she says has a very tart taste.

We found the business, and The Cider House restaurant, but they didn’t have those apples.

One of the workers, or maybe he was the owner of the orchard, said they did have about four of those particular trees but weren’t having much luck with them this year.

The trip to the orchard was outside of the town and took a few minutes to get there.

On the way back, we decided to stop and take a few pictures of some rather interesting characters positioned on a kayak and in a bathtub just a few yards away from the Toccoa/Ocoee River. The river carries both names along a 93-mile stretch in North Carolina and northern Georgia.

The letters TRA were emblazoned on the displays. I didn’t take the time to find out what TRA stood far and left the area.

Typing in TRA on the internet I came across the website of Toccoa River Adventures, a company that offers tubing, canoeing and kayaking trips on the Toccoa/Ocoee River.

I trust that most of their customers end up in a better condition than those in these pictures.

Next post: November 25, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One-way trip slow, but adventurous

 My wife and I like to think, at times, that we’re taking a death-defying adventure.

So every now and then, when up in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we decide to take one of their one-way roads, of which there are a few.

This past October, the Heintoga Road was on our agenda.

The road begins high atop Balsam Mountain and winds its way down to Cherokee NC, some 28 miles away although the one-way part is only about 11 miles.

Its not the first time we have taken the road, and probably won’t be the last.

One previous trip we were in the van of my brother-in-law and he was doing the driving. My wife, sister, brother and his wife were aboard. That trip was an adventure. We were young, he was a mechanic (and could make repairs if needed), and he drove as though we were on a LeMans course. Down and down, around and around, seemingly faster (15 or 20 mph) as we got closer to the bottom.

Those were the good ole days.

Well, this last trip wasn’t like that. We had an aged van, it was just the two of us, some 30 years older, and we just mosied down the side of the mountain, enjoying the terrain, some fall colors and the fact that there weren’t any more vehicles anywhere nearby.

It was slow-going. The drive seemed longer than the last time, and rougher. The unpaved, rutted road, offered up more exposed rocks which I didn’t seem to remember in the past.

Down and down we went and, since you are reading this, we made it.

On the final stretch, along a two-way section on the bottom, we pulled off overlooking a stream and had lunch.

The trip is not for everyone. I read a review, and what the guy said about the adventure was true, but he just didn’t like that kind of adventure. He didn't like the fact, the trip was slow and there weren't any panoramic vistas.

Others truly love the drive because of what it is — a serene stretch of wilderness road with bumps and turns and your vehicle not going more than about 10 miles per hour -- and very few other humans.

Next post: Nov. 18, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Snowfall adds beauty, work at LeConte Lodge

Deep snow at LeConte Lodge (Photo from High on LeConte blog site)

We missed the event by four days, but that’s the way things happen.

Wifey and I last week spent a few days in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We camped at Smokemont, just north of Cherokee, NC, for two nights The skies were clear, the temperatures on the cool side. I loved it.

Not quite rocking chair weather (Photo from High on LeConte blog site)

Earlier this year I told wifey that sometime in December or January, when snowfall was expected, I wanted to drive up and experience the beauty of the area in white.

Little did I know that the area was going to have an even earlier snowfall than usual. We left Monday morning and traveled to Marietta, Ga., to visit family. Weather reports indicated that north Georgia was possibly going to get a dusting of snow.

Skies turn clear following snowfall (Photo from High on LeConte blog site)

But what happened where we were camping, was unbelievable. A foot or more of snow fell in the area. We didn’t realize that would happen when up there, and because of other obligations, we had to head on home.

Portions of the park were closed, Interstate 40 through the mountain pass was closed, as was other avenues of travel.

Gatlinburg had snow. Cherokee had snow. And we didn’t.  

Snow piles up at LeConte Lodge (Photo from High on LeConte blog site)

But we did learn of a website that would give us daily updates of what is going on at the higher elevations.

On the top of Mt. LeConte is a lodge of sorts. We hiked up to it years ago, but never got around to spending the night.

Well, we found out that there are those who spend all winter there, taking care of the place and hosting travelers. And they have a daily blog called  “High on LeConte”  (www.highonleconte.com/daily-posts)

Since I found out about their blog, I decided to steal a few pictures so others will know about their site and enjoy the beauty of the elevated areas during the year.

They offer an online store that allows ordering of different kinds of merchandise.

We have never met bloggers Chris and Allyson Virden, but hope to some day, although we would probably have to run across them at a lower elevation. Age sort of keeps us off the mountain tops.

We can only wish them the best of luck as they take care of one of the great places in the park.

Next post: November 11, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There's gold in those Georgia apples

The people at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Ga., have definitely found gold in the multitude of colors that appear on apples.

Last week, on our way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we decided to take a short detour and visit the location.

Wasn’t what I expected, but then I should have known better, because wifey said it was the biggest orchard in the Southeast.

There were hundreds, if not a thousand or more, people there on that perfect October day.

And were they serious about apples! 

We saw people loading up on apples in small, medium and large bags. They were also enjoying shopping for souvenirs of all kinds.

And for those with a little extra time on their hands, and an appetite, food was also aplenty.

We managed to get a “near the front” parking spot. Others had to settle on spots about a quarter of a mile away and walk to the main building.

Christmas was also part of the celebration

People seemed to be enjoying themselves and taking time for a free tasting of samples before heading out to shop, whether for fried apple pies, candy or nuts.

During the course of a year they also offer pumpkins, u-pick blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Cooking demonstrations and bakery classes are also available.

We managed to pick up a few "golden" nuggets before heading down the road to continue our fall adventure.

Next post: Nov. 4, 2014